A little over a week after the unfortunate incident involving a medical practitioner, Dr Allwell Oji, the Nigerian man who jumped off the Third Mainland Bridge last Sunday, many Nigerians are still at a loss as to what could have led to the obvious suicide.
The medical doctor, said to be in his late 30s, was believed to have ordered his driver to park his Nissan Pathfinder SUV, on a portion of the Third Mainland Bridge before taking a dive straight to his death in the expansive, seemingly unending body of water below.
The car, with the registration numbers: Lagos LND 476 EE, was soon crowded on that Sunday before it was finally driven away by the police. Having taken place on Sunday, a day many set aside to rest apart from religious activities, visiting friends and receiving visitors, the lagoon was somewhat deserted as local fishermen who also act as divers in emergency situations were nowhere to be found.
Speaking on the peculiarity of their existence, fishermen in one of the many riverine communities dotting the water body under the popular Third Mainland Bridge said the fear of water is non-existent for them being fisherman but always ready to help out as divers if there is an emergency on that side of the lagoon.
Not appearing ruffled hearing a man jumped to the lagoon, it is not unlikely that it is a kind of routine for them. Olorunwa Amazu, a young man from the predominantly Egun extraction of Benin Republic who can also be found in parts of Lagos and Ogun states, said they thrived on water and could hardly live anywhere devoid a splash of such sprawling marine properties.
“I work as a fishermen on this water and that means it is a life of venturing out into the water every day for fishes to sell for a living. We usually set out before the setting of the sun and sometimes go out also in the evening.
From the water surrounding our abode here in Makoko, we go as far as the other side of the bridge which is very deep but can be highly rewarding as well.
Apart from a few times where we have been ripped off money made by the police after taking part in rescue efforts and threatened with arrest at other times, there is no danger in diving deep under the water to try and save people or retrieve bodies and properties,” he said.
Also speaking in the same vein, Monday Agbe, a young man of about 23, who also works as a fisherman/ diver on the Makoko end of the bridge, said seeing a man fall or jump into the water is like a call to duty for every fisherman in Makoko and other areas like Ilaje, Badia and Oworonshoki. “We didn’t know when the man (DrAllwell Oji) jumped, if we had seen him jump, we would have rushed there to rescue him.
I have taken part in such rescue efforts before. It might not be a regular occurrence anymore but seeing people get thrown into the water is something we are very used to.
Miscreants usually rob people off their car, jewelry items and still end up throwing some of them into the lagoon. This part of the lagoon, just before the bridge is not so deep but from under the bridge to the other side, it is very deep but that is still no threat to us. We glide in and out as we wish and it is nothing to us.
The only thing is if we do not see the person at the point of getting into the water or if we just feel it could incriminate us, we won’t go there to help.
There is no difficulty as such apart from policemen cheating us out of money promised for such rescue efforts and fear of being tagged the killer,”Agbe, who has a bowl full of resh-caught, fairly large fishes in his boat, submitted.
An elderly fisherman who simply gave his name as Idowu, asked Saturday Telegraph if the corpse of the said doctor was still missing at the time of visiting while hinting they were fully ready if their services are needed to recover the remains of the doctor who cuts an image of a recluse and mentally disturbed man in death.
“It might not be so usual but we have seen many people fall into the lagoon,there was a time it was a car and the woman in it. I think there was an accident and both the car and the occupant, a woman, plunged into the lagoon.
There was also the issue of the helicopter last year which crashed on the other side close to Oworonshoki. I was one of those who helped rescue people who were injured and some of the dead bodies there,” he offered.
Shedding more light on the danger of being tagged as killers of some of the bodies found in the lagoon, a tough-talking woman who refused to give her name, spoke to Saturday Telegraph. “It is not such a difficult thing for us to rescue people.
If anybody jumps or is thrown into the lagoon and our men or boys see him or her, they automatically head to the point solely for the purpose of rescuing the person.
We have seen many of such instances but that is no longer the case. What I mean is that it is not automatic that we see a person fall into the water and rush to help and I would tell you the reason.
A woman was seen in in the water sometime ago, she is believed to have been thrown from the Third Mainland Bridge by some of the bad boys seeking who to rob on the bridge but once some of our boys got wind of it, they rushed to the place to save her but by the time they got there, she was already dead.
However, they were able to retrieve some of the items on her including her bag which contained her phones and other things. Unfortunately, police framed them for the murder of that woman through the phone connection.
The woman was a Yoruba and she is from an influential family; her people are powerful and rich and it got so bad that two years or so after, our people arrested then are still in detention as we speak.
The man that retrieved the phone, his brother, their father and even father-in-law are still in detention and we have continued to contribute money so they can be released or at least given a fair trial but nothing has happened.
They were kept in Kirikiri but we later heard they were moved somewhere else because, according to what we heard, we kept visiting them.” As sad and gripping as the fresh case of Allwell Oji, whose mother right described the first body found after days of searching as not that of his son, is, there have been at least three more cases of people committing or attempting to commit suicide in the last few days.
One is that of a woman who jumped into the lagoon at the Ebute Ero end of Lagos while the other one was yet at the Oworonshoki end of Third Mainland Bridge.
One of the women was named Abigail while the name of the other was given as Momoh. Both cases, recorded on Friday, tried to commit suicide.
Speaking to Saturday Telegraph on the developments, Lagos State Police Public Relation Officer, Olarinde Famous-Cole, said: “Abigail is a food vendor who got a loan from a microfinance bank and she was supposed to pay back but she has been unable to pay back so she has been in a depressed state and then decided to jump off the bridge at the Ebute Ero part of Lagos State.
Her little house help who was with her and would have been under the age of 10 quickly rushed to the local fisherman and divers, beckoned on them and they rescued her in less than 20 minutes.
They rescued her and applied local first aid on her, Police was called and we got there at about the same time the young girl was raising an alarm and we were able to talk to her and she has been taken to the hospital. On talking to her, she said she decided to take her life because of the microfinance bank she is owing.
This is a clear case of poverty, N150,000 so you can imagine the level of poverty. She said she was living alone without help, she stays at Alakuko and sells Amala at Sango and this morning, she left that part to come to Ebute Ero and jump into the lagoon.” According to Famous-Cole, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, the 64-year-old food vendor doesn’t even speak English and could hardly have been influenced by the Dr. Oji situation.
“The other case is a woman that is one of the socialites in the society, she was coming inward the mainland and stopped a cab and alighted and decided to jump over the bridge while she was busy hallucinating that she wants to take her life. But our ever-patrolling policemen on the bridge gave her a chase and got held onto her.
She said she was owing money where she goes to buy materials, she is one of the Iyalojas (market women) who travel to buy materials. She said she was owing money and wanted to take her life because of that.”
As things are, death, especially by suicide is on the prowl as Nigeria continues to battle the most hard-hitting recession of the last three decades and the fishermen and divers are beginning to see that they must be more aware of such suicide attempts than ever.